Neck Lift
What You Need To Know
featuring Dr. George H. Sanders, II, M.D.
There is a saying that goes, “Youth is wasted on the young.” If I did not understand it then, I surely do now. Thankfully there is plastic surgery and all kinds of great procedures allowing us to regain what has changed over the years. We do not always require a full face lift. Depending on the age and elasticity of the skin, we can get away with a neck lift. For believers like me, there is hope. As we all know, finding the right doctor is very important. Always research your physician before undergoing surgery of any kind.
We asked renowned plastic surgeon George H. Sanders, III, M.D. to explain what our options are when it comes to getting a neck lift. To familiarize you with Dr. Sanders’ background, he was born and raised in Southeast Texas and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rice University in Houston. He attended Harvard Medical School where he was elected to the Aesculapian Club for excellence in scholarship and leadership. He then completed his general surgery training as the Chief Resident at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he earned the Leo Rigler Award for excellence in surgery. Dr. Sanders’ plastic surgery residency was done at UCLA where he studied with a number of well-known cosmetic and reconstructive surgeons. He has been practicing in Encino for a number of years and his office includes a state-of-the-art surgery center where he performs his procedures.
What exactly is a neck lift and what is the surgical process?
A neck lift is a procedure that allows for lifting of the jaw line and neck regions. Neck lifts come in many shapes and forms, all the way from a simple liposuction of the neck to more traditional neck lifts which involve removal of fat as well as tightening of the muscle bands, and skin tightening. Exactly which procedure is appropriate depends on the patient’s degree of aging as well as their own personal desires. The lesser procedures, such as liposuction, have a much shorter recovery process, whereas the more traditional neck lifts involve a longer period of time for recovery.
In a traditional neck lift, an incision is made which is hidden along the undersurface of the sideburn, and then along the inner edge of the front of the ear, around the back of the ear and then into the scalp. The scars tend to fade beautifully with the passage of time. The skin is lifted, the excess fat is removed from the jowl and front of the neck region, the muscle bands are brought together in the front of the neck by means of an incision in the crease beneath the chin, the cheek muscle is tightened to firm up the jaw line, and the skin is then drawn backwards and upwards, where it is removed in front of and behind the ear. The result is an extremely natural look.
There is also a procedure known as a MACS-Lift that does not involve lifting the skin off of the muscle in front of the neck as does the traditional neck lift, but does involve fat removal from the front of the neck and jaw line, as well as a tightening of the neck muscle and the cheek muscle from the side of the neck. The skin of the front of the neck is also tightened as the muscle is pulled backward. For patients who do not need as much improvement in the front of the neck, this less involved procedure is an excellent alternative.
How long is the procedure?

A traditional neck lift requires approximately two and one-half hours and a MACS-Lift requires approximately two hours.

Is it painful, and are there any risks involved?

I would not say that these operations are painful. Most patients do experience some mild discomfort due to the underlying muscle tightening, as well as sensitivity from the incisions about the ears.

As far as risks are concerned, the lesser procedures such as a MACS-Lift do not carry as much of a risk as does the standard neck lift. When we say ‘risk’, however, we are talking about relatively minor things. Because the incision is not made in the hair in the temple area, there is no loss of hair in the region. There is a slight risk of some facial weakness, which almost always resolves within a few weeks, should it occur. There would also be some numbness of the face, as well as the potential for some degree of visibility of the scarring.

There is another procedure that involves threading. What are your thoughts on this?
Threading involves the passage of sutures within the skin itself so as to tighten and uplift the skin through small incisions about the ear. The problem is that the skin relaxes very quickly after this is done, so that the results are short-lived. Although this procedure showed some early promise when it was first introduced approximately ten years ago, it has quickly fallen out of favor.
On the other hand, when the neck lift procedures are done, sutures are placed internally to tighten the neck and cheek muscles. These do dissolve with the passage of time, but their results are very long-lasting.
If one easily scars, how can scarring be prevented?

A neck lift procedure does involve the creation of scars which are beautifully concealed beneath the sideburn, in the natural crease beneath the chin, and about the ear. There are several secrets to producing minimally detectable scars. One involves the avoidance of excessive tension on the skin when the lift is done. If the skin is pulled too tightly, there will be more tension on the scar which will lead to more scar visibility and the potential for thickened scarring. The avoidance of sun exposure on the scars is also important for the first few months.

Should some thickening of the scars occur, this can be treated with injection of a small amount of steroid which generally resolves the problem.

What is the healing and downtime period post-surgery?
Following a MACS-lift or neck lift, about one and one-half weeks of down time are required. Although one is able to be up and moving about the house, it is wise to avoid excessive activity and one certainly needs to avoid any type of exercise.
When should one consider neck lift surgery?

If there is jowling or loose skin/fat/muscle banding in the front of the neck, a neck lift would be of benefit.

How long does a neck lift last?

The benefits of a neck lift last a lifetime. In a sense, it is like setting a clock back with surgery, and then allowing the clock to run forward afterwards. Although we can set the clock back in surgery, we cannot control the rate at which it runs forward. The clock, however, will always show an earlier time than it would have had it not been set back, and this is exactly the situation with the neck lift since patients will always look better than they would if they had not had surgery.

Most patients find that it requires about eight to ten years before they return to the point that they were at before the neck lift surgery was done.

Is it as effective to do a neck lift along with a facelift, or does it work on its own?

A neck lift alone does an excellent job of tightening the jaw line and neck. Should one wish to have some additional tightening of the cheek region, however, a cheek lift would need to be added. A neck lift plus a cheek lift equals a facelift.

What is the price range for a neck lift?
Prices vary depending on how much needs to be done. A liposuction procedure of the neck done under local anesthesia would be approximately $2,700.00, whereas a full neck lift done under sedation anesthesia would be approximately $11,200.00. With a full neck lift, many patients spend the first night at a recovery center, since drain tubes are required for the first couple of days. A MACS-Lift procedure can be done under local anesthesia, involves no drains, and does not require an overnight stay at a recovery center. A MACS-Lift is an excellent alternative for the patient who does not have a great deal of loose skin or muscle banding in the front of the neck.
Dr. Sanders pursues a variety of interests. He serves as an Elder at Grace Community Church of Sun Valley and is also on the Board of Directors of The Master’s College and Seminary. He enjoys time with his wife, Anna, as they travel, entertain, and just “hang out” together. Both of their adult children live in the area and are a major part of their lives.
Interested in Dr. Sanders’ thoughts on any number of contemporary issues in plastic surgery? Check out his blog at
16633 Ventura Blvd.
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